Seal Loyalty Program with KISS

By  Bob Johnson, President and CEO

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Many c-store operators are finding themselves in a defensive posi­tion—surrounded by competitors who’ve already implemented loyalty programs.

Having worked with retailers and observed various program strategies, some consistent themes emerge as best practices used by successful practitioners.

Keep It Simple …

We perceive the most common misstep as breaking the rule of simplicity. The KISS principle is useful—never more so than with loyalty. If your customers have to think about it, it’s too complicated. Think of your base loyalty program as meat in a pot roast. Sure, you can add spices to jazz it up, but if customers say, “Where’s the beef?” you’ve got a major problem.

Implementing a loyalty program brings huge changes to store-level operations; unless your staff can communicate your program in a succinct and compelling way, your consumers will not participate.

An excellent place to start is with a punch card. This will eliminate fraud and allow the consumer to benefit from your various programs without carrying multiple cards. Adding a points program is a great next step. With points, consum­ers use the rewards to suit their needs. What better connection could you make with consumers than giving them a path toward a reward (generally a high-margin product) that can be used only at your locations?

Keep It Fresh

Raffle programs, special purchase dis­counts, store-specific programs, day-of-week programs, new store celebrations, and birthday rewards are tools to spice it up and keep them coming back.

Leveraging social media is a great way to communicate with consumers and capture other contact information: hav­ing phone number, email, postal address, and birthday data make for a much richer customer interaction.

Just remember the KISS method, and be judicious about adding too much spice.

Build Your Brand

Programs that build a national or coali­tion brand have some advantages, but not without drawbacks. It’s important for you to own the relationship with the con­sumer and build your brand; all efforts should serve those objectives. Consumer loyalty must be tied to your locations and your brand. If not, you’ve implemented a discount scheme, not a loyalty program.

Engage Your Suppliers

Your suppliers will be delighted to participate with you, because you can produce data supporting how the pro­motions worked. You can add value by showing more details (number of purchases, frequency by day of week and/or time of day, most popular items sold in conjunction with their product), leading suppliers to deeper promotional discounting.

Leverage the Plastic

Consumers already carry more plastic than they would like. The average con­sumer has signed up for more than 14 loyalty programs and actively participates in six. Leveraging the loyalty card for dis­penser preauthorization and alternative payment method, whether a prepaid or ACH card, will give your customer more value and incentive to carry it.

Use the Data

Every interaction with your customer helps you better understand their needs— if you pay attention. I recall industry visionary Dick Meyer’s observation, “He who has the most data wins!” Dick was referring to weekly financial and category sales data. However, he rightly foresaw today’s environment with transaction-level data. With loyalty you can match demographic data against transactions for a complete view of consumer behavior.

Review each promotion’s perfor­mance and recraft them. Consumer shopping patterns across stores is helpful in identifying underserved markets.

Engage Store Personnel

Build in ample time to discuss your plan with operations and incorporate their feedback. Create incentives for store per­sonnel to “sell” the program within and to consumers. Rewards and competitions are great tools to keep them engaged.

Finally, create systems to address cus­tomer comments, complaints, and sug­gestions—because you will have them. Make it efficient and be equipped to deal with this new aspect of your business.

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